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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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HAND is EV [Note: English Version.] tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of Heb. yâd , ‘the open hand,’ kaph , ‘the closed hand,’ and Gr. cheir , ‘hand.’ Sometimes it is idiomatic, e.g. ‘at hand’ ( Isaiah 13:6 etc., Heb. qârôb , Matthew 26:18 etc., Gr. engys , lit. ‘near’). In determining the directions in the Orient, the face is turned to the east, not to the north as with us. So it comes that yâmîn , ‘right hand,’ and semô’l , ‘left hand,’ like the Arab. [Note: Arabic.] yamîn and shimâl , denote respectively ‘south’ and ‘north.’

In prayer the hands were stretched up (Exodus 17:11 , 1 Kings 8:22 , Psalms 28:2 etc.). To lift the hand to God signified a vow ( Genesis 14:22 ). To put the hand under the thigh of one to whom a vow was made, constituted a binding form of oath ( Genesis 24:2; Genesis 47:29 ). Blessing was conveyed by laying hands upon the head ( Genesis 48:14 ). Out of this probably grew the practice in ordination see Laying on of Hands. To ‘fill the hand’ ( Exodus 28:41 etc.) was to set apart to the priesthood. Sin was supposed to be conveyed to the head of the victim for sacrifice ( Exodus 29:10 etc.), especially to that of the scapegoat ( Leviticus 16:21 etc.), by laying on of the priests’ hands. Washing the hands was a declaration of innocence ( Deuteronomy 21:6 , Psalms 26:6 , Matthew 27:24 etc.). Clean hands were a symbol of a righteous life ( Job 22:30 , Psalms 18:20; Psalms 24:4 etc.). To smite the hands together was a sign of anger ( Numbers 24:10 ). To pour water on another’s hands was to be his servant ( 2 Kings 3:11 ). To join hand in hand was to conspire together ( Proverbs 11:21 etc.). To strike hands sealed a compact ( Proverbs 6:1 etc.). Folded hands he token slumber ( Proverbs 24:33 ). Left-handedness seems to have been common among the Benjamites ( Judges 20:16 ), and once it was of signal service ( Judges 3:15; Judges 3:21 ).

‘The hand of the Lord,’ and ‘a mighty hand’ (Deuteronomy 2:15; Deuteronomy 4:34 etc.), stand for the resistless power of God. ‘The hand of the Lord upon’ the prophet signifies the Divine inspiration ( Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 37:1 etc.). ‘The good hand of the Lord’ ( Ezra 7:6 etc.), ‘my hand’ and ‘my Father’s hand’ ( John 10:28-29 ), denote the providential, preserving care of God.

It appears that certain marks or cuttings in the hand were evidence of what deity one served (Isaiah 44:5 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] , cf. Galatians 6:17 ). The mark of the beast ‘upon their hand’ ( Revelation 20:4 ) is probably an allusion to this custom. See Cuttings in the Flesh, and Marks.

In court the accuser stands on the right hand (Psalms 109:6 , Zechariah 3:1 ). The left hand bears the shield, leaving the right side exposed in battle. The protector, therefore, stands on the right hand ( Psalms 109:31 etc.). Perhaps on this account honour attaches to the right hand, the place given to the most favoured guest. The seat of the Redeemer’s glory is at the right hand of God ( Psalms 110:1 , Luke 22:69 , Romans 8:34 etc.).

Thrice ( 1Sa 15:12 , 2 Samuel 18:18 , Isaiah 56:5 ) yâd clearly means ‘monument’ or ‘memorial,’ probably a stone block or pillar; a hand may have been carved upon it, but this is uncertain.

W. Ewing.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Hand'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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